Employee Q&A: Meat Scientist John Marchello

Employee Q&A: Meat Scientist John Marchello

By Shelley SheltonUniversity Communications
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John Marchello
John Marchello

Name: John Marchello

Position: Professor of Animal Sciences

Number of years at the UA: 48

Favorite thing about working at the UA: Working with students. I have a lot of students.

Who is your favorite famous cowboy? Bill Linderman is my favorite one. That's a long time ago. He was world champion. Then, of course, I have good association with a lot of the top contestants that come to Tucson.

John Marchello has spent his entire professional life working at the University of Arizona.

He grew up in Montana, where he earned his undergraduate and master's degrees, and then moved to Colorado to complete his doctorate.

Today he's a professor of animal sciences, but labels himself a "meat scientist." He not only teaches but also works with independent study students in food safety; oversees animal harvesting at the Arizona Cooperative Extension; helps judge carcasses for Southern Arizona's county fairs; supervises a weekly meat sale that teaches students business skills and raises money for his programs; collects data on how different types of feed affect animals; and runs panels that taste the animals that have had the different feeds.

This time of year, he stays busy as coach of the University of Arizona's Rodeo Club. While it's rare that one of the UA team members gets to participate in Tucson's annual Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Tucson Rodeo), he said, there is a strong connection between the rodeo and the UA: In 2005, the Tucson Rodeo Committee partnered with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to offer an endowed scholarship through the UA Foundation. Annual scholarships are available to eligible resident students entering or attending the UA who are involved in the sport of rodeo.

Rodeo Club members do get to compete at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds when the big rodeo isn't going on.

Marchello spends his free time – what there is of it – hunting or fishing, or at home on his 22-acre ranch in Marana, where he also raises sheep, cattle and horses.

On some level, he always knew he wanted to go into animal science, he says.

"I grew up in a small mining community in Bear Creek, Mont., which is right on one of the entrances to Yellowstone (National) Park, and my dad had a grocery story that specialized in high-quality meats," he says. "We fed a lot of cattle and ran a lot of cattle on grass. So I got a lot of experience there."

While Marchello is a living piece of the history of his department, he's looking forward to the formation this month of the School of Animal and Medical Biology, which will combine the animal sciences department with the Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology, he says.

A dedication is scheduled for March 30.

Marchello recently talked to Lo Que Pasa about his career at the University.

What was your first job?
I went from Montana State University to Colorado State University, and I was hired. I went to Colorado State on an instructorship, and we were on a quarter system, and I could take six units a quarter, but I taught five afternoon courses a week.

Describe what you do.
I teach introductory animal science, and I have about 240 kids in that, and then generally I will have anywhere from 20-60 kids in the food and safety courses. And then, (I like) getting them to communicate and teaching them some of the skills they need to go out on their own. … Not too many are interested in harvesting and processing meat animals anymore. … I have had 56 graduate students that I have tutored, and I have two of them that are doing their Ph.D. They will finish in May and are excellent, excellent students. … I started a meat sale business for our students' experience and that is held on Fridays from 3-6 (p.m.). … There's usually about six students involved, or maybe more. … Just to give them business experience, where they actually talk to the customers about the products and so on, and we sell grain-fed, grass-fed beefs, lamb, pork, brats, bacon, beef bacon and so on. … Last week we set a record for $4,200 in three hours.

If you didn't have this job, what career would you have?
I was interested in doing reproductive physiology. … That has to do with reproduction of farm animals, synchronizing of estrogens, and controlled birth and things of that nature, which is a highly technical field, much more than when I started.

Who or what has influenced you in your career?
I've met a lot of good people. My major professor … at Colorado State was an extremely good scientist that taught me a lot. I taught him a lot about harvesting and processing animals. … Then I did a lot of work with regard to evaluating the composition of lamb fat by different breed and how it changes from season to season and so on. So he probably steered me the most in direction on that particular thing, and … a couple of the deans of the (UA) College of Agriculture (and Life Sciences) helped me out a great deal too. And then when I first came here I had a very strong department head who really helped me get started with some of my research, and that was a big influence on me and what we could do. And that was really the start of my food safety interests but it wasn’t really called that at that time.

What career advice would you offer to someone just starting out?
Get a strong education and get as much hands-on work that you can possibly get, hands-on experience. This is one thing that I am doing now, that I wish I had the opportunity when I was going to undergraduate school: internships. … There is one thing that I really like to stress to these youngsters is, communicate, learn how to communicate. Talk to your instructors, because they are going to help you out, and then be able to communicate and work with others. And this is one thing that I like about these independent studies (students), because these kids have to come in and work with one another. If one of them screws up, then the other one needs to say, "You didn't do it this right way." … Mentorship is a big thing with these youngsters, advising is a big issue in our department, so that helps a lot. … And of course the big thing is attitude.

How would you like to spend your retirement?
I don't know. I like to hunt and fish. … So I would do that. And I recently bought a boat, so I do a lot of fishing and things of that nature. But I don't have too much time. See the issues that we have here, who is going to replace me?

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